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UPDATE: Nigeria’s SEC classifies cryptocurrencies as securities in landmark regulatory document

Tochukwu Egesi
Tochukwu Egesi

Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Monday designated the title of “securities” to crypto assets and hence will be regulated by it.

According to the capital market regulator, the power it has to regulate the crypt asset class derives from Section 13 of the Investment and Securities Act, 2007. The section conferred the powers on the Commission as the apex regulator of the Nigerian capital market to regulate investments and securities business in Nigeria.

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Office

“Consequently, the SEC will regulate crypto-token or crypto-coin investments when the character of the investments qualifies as securities transactions,” the SEC said.

It is the first time a Nigerian regulator is adopting any position on cryptocurrencies. In the past, the approach has been to warn investors off the cryptocurrencies which were seen as too volatile, risky, and prone to scams.

Several exchange operators said they were still studying the material and needed time to respond.

Under the new regulatory regime, crypto asset issuers and sponsors are expected to satisfy the burden of proving that the virtual assets do not constitute securities by making an initial assessment filing.

However, where the SEC is convinced that the virtual assets are indeed securities (not structured to be exclusively offered through crowdfunding portals or other exempt methods), then the issuer or sponsor must register the digital assets.

There are two approaches to registering virtual assets. The first is an initial assessment filing to satisfy the burden of proof and a filing for registration proper, either made directly by the issuer or sponsor or where the burden of proof is not satisfied.

Similarly, all Digital Assets Token Offering (DATOs), Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), Security Token ICOs and other Blockchain-based offers of digital assets within Nigeria or by Nigerian issuers or sponsors or foreign issuers targeting Nigerian investors, shall be subject to the regulation of the Commission. Existing digital assets offerings prior to the implementation of the Regulatory Guidelines will have three (3) months to either submit the initial assessment filing of documents for registration proper, as the case may be.

In terms of who comes under the regulatory purview, the SEC says any person, (individual or corporate) whose activities involve any aspect of blockchain-related and virtual digital asset services, must be registered by the commission and as such, will be subject to the regulatory guidelines. Others include issuers or sponsors (startups or existing corporations) of virtual digital assets.

Also, foreign or non-residential issuers or sponsors could be asked to establish a branch office within Nigeria. Otherwise, foreign issuers or sponsors will be recognised by the commission where a reciprocal agreement exists between Nigerian and the country of the foreign issuer or sponsor.

Similarly, foreign issuers or sponsors from countries that are members of the Internal Organisation of Securities Commission will be accorded recognition status.

The latest development may not be unconnected to the rising profile of Nigeria as a top destination to cryptocurrency transactions.

“Digital assets offerings provide alternative investment opportunities for the investing public, it is, therefore, essential to ensure that these offerings operate in a manner that is consistent with investor protection, the interest of the public, market integrity and transparency,” the SEC said. “The general objective of regulation is not to hinder technology or stifle innovation, but to create standards that encourage ethical practices that ultimately make for a fair and efficient market.”

Source: BusinessDay

Nigeria In Focus:

Population - 206.6 million (Compared to South Africa's 59.6 million)

GDP: $504.57 billion (Compared to South Africa's $369.85 billion)

GDP Per Capita: $2,465 (Compared to South Africa's $6,193)

Financial inclusion

Tochukwu Egesi

Financial Services Strategy & Digital Economy Specialist (Scribing in Personal Capacity)